The history of the Church presents many a passionate dispute of beliefs. We can quote the Arian heresy, which promulgated the idea that Jesus was not equal but inferior to God the father; or Catharism, which made two gods, one out of body and evil, versus another of soul and good. We may also read of the internal theological disputes of the Church, such as the Dominicans Vs the Jesuits on the theme of free will. Do we act in total freedom, or does God predetermine our will from the moment of creation? These disputes have been deservedly confided to the history of scholasticism.
But Human passions never die. They reproduce from generation to generation under different denominations and masks. They are, finally, a question of semantics. We still find the zeal of the contenders in more fashionable areas of study, such as physiology, philosophy and physics. Thus, every time a physic comes out with a book on the origin of the universe, millions of books are printed and sold; there are even physics who change their mind once and again, such as Stephen Hawking, always under the support of the British media and the connivance of the academy. There is Popper’s theory of falsifiability, after all, to defend science from any accusations of contradiction.
In the last decade the University of Oxford and the newspaper The Guardian have been very keen to promote a new scholastic controversy: that of atheism according to Richard Dawkins versus the vilest stereotypes of religious theology. The circus he has modeled has been certainly very entertaining: the sale of two million copies of a book written in the literary prose of a 17-year old high-school student, and many buses in London announcing that God perhaps, who knows, after all, may not exist. There is no doubt that the dispute here is in the arena of theology alone. Dawkins has vainly tried to place it in the field of science. But since science has never keep a keen interest in theological endeavors, Dawkins has been obliged to build a flimsy facade, that of science against religion. The results are laughable. I saw the series he recorded for the BBC, in which he argues with the less prepared theologians in the world. He assumes a martyr countenance in one scene in which he is kicked out from a protestant Church in the US. But, is Dawkins talking to theologians? A half-educated person can’t call those Zealots Dawkins is careful to choose for his books and videos as theologians. He is very happy to prove their ignorance on Darwin’s main book, as a British laureate poet would be happy to prove how outdated are the efforts of a poet who still writes sonnets.
Dawkins discourse on the theory of evolution is just very limited. He tries to assert that the laws of selection are so wise as to build the universe by chance, failing to address the main imminent question, why were those laws set up? He can’t explain neither where is all the detritus of such process of selection. Where are the failed Homo Sapiens? In the cottages of Oxford or in the slums of New Delhi?
The sad truth is that Dawkins would have liked to be a theologian. He makes part of those philosophers denounced by Plato in The Republic, who pretended to be philosophers by saying that philosophy is just crap. Dawkins’ books are in fact full of flimsy theological arguments. He is, at least in this new chosen field of theology, a member of the Docta Ignorantia at its face value–with no reference whatsoever to Nicolas of Cusa, whom Dawkins would be most prompted to repeal by the way.
Dawkins is also–as any of the ancient scholastics, another manifestation of what Cioran called in “A Short History of Decay”, “the individual drive to prevail”; the–so he believes, wisest of the wisest, the only being who would never consider the possibility of revelation. His arguments are the best examples of modern sophistry. Let’s quote his last article when trying to mock the theological dogma on the original sin according–so Dawkins says, to Aquinas: “Adam (who never existed) bequeathed his “sin” in his bodily semen (charming notion) to all of humanity. That sin, with which every newborn baby is hideously stained (another charming notion), was so terrible that it could be forgiven only through the blood sacrifice of a scapegoat. But no ordinary scapegoat would do. The sin of humanity was so great that the only adequate sacrificial victim was God himself.”
Would Dawkins study a little bit of Theology, (instead of consulting the Zealots he seems to have so much fun with) he could be informed that Adam in effect is part of the symbolic texts of the Bible, and that Aquinas refers in all his writings to semen as the generator of life as it is (and not only to an original sin alone). He would be confused to know as well that the original sin is identified with consciousness, with the human condition that allows us to distinguish good from evil–a “gift” that neither monkeys nor fishes share.
But the sophistry of Dawkins is self-contain in this writings. He appears to discuss the original sin, when in reality he is arguing about a passage of Aquinas on the transmission of life from the father to the son. One just wonder, is it Oxford the new bulkwark of the Docta Ignorantia?
As I revised this article I realize that my Professor the venerable Jesuit Gerardo Remolina SJ will confront Dawkins on a debate, or –as Father Remolina prefers to say, a dialogue about God. I can only feel pity for Dawkins, who will have to cope with the mind of a man with an encyclopedic grasp of reality. It will be a very interesting discussion where, I can anticipate it, Dawkins will repeat once and again refuted arguments.